S.C. orders Uber to halt its operations

Uber has been ordered to cease and desist its operations in South Carolina. (Brad Nettles/Staff/File)

The state Public Service Commission ordered Uber late Thursday afternoon to halt its operations after seven months of running the car service without a license, and mostly without consequences, across South Carolina.

The commission had scheduled a public hearing on Jan. 26 to determine whether or how to regulate the app-based taxi service, but it was canceled Tuesday due to a conflict about documents Uber was required to provide to Checker Yellow Cab Co., a party in the case.

The Office of Regulatory Staff, the state agency that handles the licensing process, and the commission, the pseudo-judiciary body that often makes judgments on companies’ applications, held a meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss the ORS’ concern about canceling the hearing.

The ORS said in a letter to the commission Wednesday that the hearing had already been rescheduled twice since Uber launched its ride service in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Greenville.

The commission’s cease-and-desist order was filed sometime after the meeting with the ORS.

“At this point, it is not necessary to make a finding of fact that the Applicant is or is not operating,” the state document said. “It is only necessary that the Applicant be held to the same standard as every other applicant. To the extent that Rasier or its related companies and affiliates and/or its network partner drivers are currently operating, they must cease and desist operating unless and until the application is approved and a certificate is issued.”

“Consumers benefit from, and deserve choices in, the marketplace. However, those choices must be consistent with state law intended to protect the public.”

Uber plans to challenge the order, said spokesman Taylor Bennett, adding that the company remains “committed to providing South Carolinians” with the service.

“Despite working closely with the PSC for the past several months on a permanent solution for Uber in South Carolina, today’s actions are unexpected and not reflective of the progress made thus far,” he said.

The ride-sharing company has been issued cease-and-desist letters in several cities and states across the country, including most recently Portland, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho. In November, a judge in Nevada granted the state’s request for a court order blocking Uber from operating unregulated, according to the Associated Press. Uber suspended operations in Nevada after the ruling.

As of about 9:20 p.m. Thursday, there were at least five Uber cars still on the road in downtown Charleston.

Post and Courier reporter Melissa Boughton contributed to this report.